A sharp pain in and around your ears could be a sign of many different ailments. If the pain behind the ear is accompanied by fever, then you may have contracted an ear infection, and you need to act quickly to prevent the infection from worsening. Depending on how long the pain has been bothering you, and how intense and severe the pain actually is, you may have to undergo a few tests in order to determine the exact cause behind this earache.
What May Cause Pain Behind the Ear?
While pain in the ear is usually caused due to an infection in the outer, middle or the inner ear, at times, pain could also radiate behind the ear. Contributory factors for pain in this area include:
☞ Otitis media, which is an infection of the middle ear, is one of the most common causes. Bacteria or viruses are the most common causal agents for a middle ear infection. An infection in the outer ear, auditory canal, or on the skin around your ear could also be a contributory factor.
☞ Pain could be a sign of a damaged or a ruptured eardrum. The eardrum could rupture due to pressure by excessive buildup of fluid behind the eardrum. Accumulation of pus or fluid is often a sign of an ear infection. Injury to the ear by a foreign object or vigorous cleaning with cotton buds could also be a contributory factor.
☞ Pain may be experienced behind the ear due to mastoiditis, which is an infection of the mastoid bone that is situated behind the ear at the base of the skull. Mastoiditis could be a complication of chronic middle ear infection. Redness behind the ear, headache, fever and swelling are other symptoms that may accompany pain.
☞ Otitis externa, or swimmer's ear, is the infection of the outer ear and the ear canal. Trauma to the skin of the ear canal can make a person susceptible to this infection. Pathogens can enter through the break in the skin, thereby causing pain, discharge and itching.
☞ Temporomandibular Joint Disorders could also cause pain in the jaw and behind the ear. Temporomandibular joint is the jaw joint that connects the lower jawbone to the temporal bone. Whiplash injury, bruxism, or a jaw injury could make one susceptible to such disorders.
☞ A blocked Eustachian tube could be responsible for causing pain in and around the ear. Cold, flu, sinus infection, allergies or pressure changes while flying in an airplane could cause the Eustachian tube to get blocked. Ear barotrauma, which refers to damage to the ear, could be caused due to sudden changes in the altitude.
☞ Ceruminosis refers to the buildup of earwax in the ear canal. Excessive accumulation of earwax could give rise to pain, muffled hearing, fullness in the ear and itching. This condition could be caused by overproduction of wax by the glands. Wax could accumulate if the ear canal is narrow. At times, one may unknowingly push the wax deeper into the canal while using cotton buds.
☞ In case of a cervicogenic headache, pain gets radiated from the base of the neck to the head. Excessive stress on the upper joints of the neck due to poor posture or certain movements of the neck can cause damage to joints, muscles, ligaments and nerves of the neck. At times, whiplash injury could also cause tightness and pain in the head.
When you visit a doctor to get this condition looked at, he will ask you a bunch of questions that you must answer carefully. Some common questions that the doctor may ask you are as follows:
- Are you running a fever?
- Is the pain deep inside the ear or on the outside?
- Is there any fluid dripping from your ear?
- Does the pain resemble a headache?
- Is the bone behind the ear tender when you touch it?
- When did the swelling start? (In case the ear is swollen)
- Do you feel any tenderness in your jaw, and does it make a 'cracking' noise when you open it?
- Do you feel any fluid in your ear that does not go away even after you swallow?
- Do you have a toothache on the same side of your face?
- Can you feel a small bump somewhere inside the ear when you touch it?
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.